Amanpour Promises 'All Sides,' Yet She Skews Debate as She Charges 'Islamophobia' Spurs Anti-Muslim Violence
After two shows featuring six advocates of the Ground Zero mosque, including Iman Faisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, but not a single guest to counter Christiane Amanpour's contention opposition "has raised profound questions about religious tolerance and prejudice in the United States," ABC on Sunday decided to air a pre-recorded and edited "special This Week town hall debate, Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam?" Amanpour promised: "We air the issue from all sides."
While twelve guests in total from both sides of the question earned air time (six on stage, three more in the Manhattan studio audience and three via satellite), Amanpour was more hostile to those who answered in the affirmative than she was toward those in the negative, cuing up advocates to correct critics, culminating in Amanpour trying to discredit critics by proposing "you think Daisy Khan is al Qaeda?"
She accused Gary Bauer of "blurring the lines between those who killed and the rest of the religion. Why are you deliberately blurring the lines?" And she charged: "So, Gary Bauer, as you know, a series of politicians have used the Islamic center, have used sort of Islamophobia and scare tactics in their campaigns." Raising the vandalism at the site of a proposed mosque in Tennessee, Amanpour asserted: "After some of the loaded things that have been said, and we can play you any number of tapes, Mr. Bauer. Do you take any responsibility at all for, for instance, what happened in Murfreesboro?" Bauer was incredulous: "Are you serious?"
The last word of the hour went to GZM's Daisy Khan. Amanpour wondered: "When you listen to all of this, do you think that you should move the center?" Khan insisted she's fighting for apple pie: "No. I think that American values have to prevail. I'm now fighting for American values." Amanpour: "On that note, I thank you both, all of you very much indeed for being here."
In her intro, Amanpour betrayed the favor of what was to come:
The majority of American Muslims say they see no clash between their Islamic faith and American values, yet, across the United States, Muslim Americans have been the target of hate crimes.
She also subtly offered more credibility to Muslim advocates than to critics, as she credentialed the former but not the latter:
- I want to turn to Azar Nafisi and ask you, you fled the ayatollahs of Iran. You are an intellectual. You are a writer.
- I would like to go to Reza Aslan, who is joining us from Amsterdam and who is a scholar on these matters. Reza, you've heard, just right now, several points raised. One is that Muslims in this country are trying to bring Sharia law. Is there a shred of evidence for that?
The guests on stage. Those answering in the affirmative: Reverend Franklin Graham, Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America and Peter Gadiel whose son was killed on 9/11. Those in the negative: Donna Marsh O'Connor of September 11th Victims for Peaceful Tomorrows, Daisy Khan and Azar Nafisi who "fled the Iranian ayatollahs to come here to America."
Previous posts on Amanpour's one-sided coverage of the Ground Zero Mosque:
September 12: "Amanpour Uses ABC's This Week to Continue Her Crusade to Smear America as Islamophobic and Tout Rauf's Cause"
August 22: "Amanpour on One-Sided This Week: 'Profound Questions About Religious Tolerance and Prejudice in the U.S.'"
Amanpour's questions aired in the pre-recorded and edited October 3 This Week:
> So we're going to start now by talking to Peter Gadiel, whose son was killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center. Let me ask you, Peter, should Americans fear Islam? > Donna Marsh O'Connor, you also lost a daughter. You lost your unborn grandchild. Do you think you, America, should be afraid of Islam?
> Let me ask you, Reverend Graham, you have said and you said not so long ago that President Bush and President Obama made a great mistake when they said that Islam is a peaceful religion. It's not, you said. There's no evidence in its history. It's a religion of hatred, it's a religion of war, and repeatedly you've said that Islam is wicked and evil. Why do you say that?
> Let me ask you, Robert Spencer, should America fear Islam and why?
> I want to turn to Daisy Khan who obviously you just mentioned her husband Imam Rauf. Would you answer to what Robert Spencer has just said?
> I want to turn to Azar Nafisi and ask you, you fled the ayatollahs of Iran. You are an intellectual. You are a writer. Should people fear Islam?
> I would like to go to Reza Aslan, who is joining us from Amsterdam and who is a scholar on these matters. Reza, you've heard, just right now, several points raised. One is that Muslims in this country are trying to bring Sharia law. Is there a shred of evidence for that?
> [To Graham] Why do you call it a wicked religion, an evil religion?
> Let me ask Daisy. This is something that everybody talks about. We've had questions, masses of questions through our Facebook and through many, many people who tried to contribute to the program. Basically, where are the voices of the moderates speaking up?
> What do you want to do with the Islamic center which so many people have caused so much controversy about?
> Okay. Let me just stop you there for a second because this side is obviously the side that says one shouldn't fear and that there are moderates and the whole religion should not be painted with the same brush. I want to now though go to Anjem Choudary in London. You have said that you think there should be Islamic domination. Why shouldn't people be afraid of that?
> You see, Reverend Graham says you're telling the truth, so do you agree with Reverend Graham and our panelists on this side that Americans should fear Islam?
[Anjem Choudary : We do believe as Muslims the east and the west will one day be governed by the Sharia and do believe one day the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.]
> Do you, Reverend Graham, think that this Islamic radical who we just heard from is agreeing with you?
> I just want to go to Reza Aslan, who's busy shaking his head from Amsterdam.
> Agreeing with Franklin Graham is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who joined us by satellite. She was raised a Muslim in Somalia but fled her country and renounced her religion. She has since received death threats for condemning radical Islam.
> Just how dangerous? When we come back, a former FBI agent on the real threat, but is this targeting all American Muslims?
> As we know, there are real terrorist threats and real concerns now by law enforcement about homegrown cells, so next I turn to Brad Garrett, former FBI agent and ABC News security consultant. But what I want to ask you is, Brad, there are obviously real fears, which is why this is such a heated debate. What are the real concerns in terms of security that exist right now?
[Garrett: If you break that down into violence, it's like 130 some odd numbers. So compared to other crimes, compared to other issues in this country, it doesn't sort of match up in that regard.]
And, yet, there's been the attempt here at Times Square, Faisal Shahzad, there's been the Fort Hood, there have been all these issues which have caused a lot of fear to a lot of people.
> But is it a question now of basically tarring or conflating, confusing everyone, 1.57 billion Muslims around the world, with that minority group who would do harm and who would and who would cause violence?
> The question though is, from what I'm hearing from you, do you think Daisy Khan is al Qaeda?
[Spencer: No, I didn't say that. I didn't say that. I never said such a thing. You're distorting what I said.]
I'm asking you because you're attributing to her-
> At the Values Voters summit, Mr. [Gary] Bauer, you said and you were talking about Islam and you were talking about violence. You said just a couple of weeks ago, the cause of this violence, you said, is an Islamic culture that keeps hundreds of millions of people right on the edge of murder and mayhem 24 hours a day. Hundreds of millions of Muslims on the verge of murder?...But is that what you think?
> [To Bauer, in audience] My question about the Islamic center that Daisy and her husband wanted to build is the opposition to it. Are you basically saying it's al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like sympathizers who are building this mosque?
[Bauer: No, I'm saying that it is incredibly insensitive for her, anyone else to suggest building a mosque near a place where 3,000 people died killed by men operating in the name of Islam.]
But why should it be insensitive, and then I will ask - why should it be insensitive if you're not blurring the lines between those who killed and the rest of the religion? Why are you deliberately blurring the lines?
> [To Bauer] But where should this center be built?
> Here we turn to the story of Imam Ossama Bahloul, 900 miles away from Manhattan in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, his plans for an Islamic center have come under attack.
> [To Bahloul] Do you think politics played into it? Do you think political rhetoric played into it?
> So, Gary Bauer, as you know, a series of politicians have used the Islamic center, have used sort of Islamophobia and scare tactics in their campaigns.
[Bauer: Christiane, that's a loaded question. Really? People are using a fear of Muslims for their political purposes?]
People are talking, the same kind of thing, yes, yes, that's what he believes.
> But my question is do you take any - after some of the loaded things that have been said, and we can play you any number of tapes, Mr. Bauer. Do you take any responsibility at all for, for instance, what happened in Murfreesboro?
[Bauer: Are you serious? Absolutely not. I have never encouraged violence. I condemn violence.]
You don't think the rhetoric sort of lays the groundwork for others who might feel-
> Reza, what did he [Spencer] say that was inaccurate?
> I want to go to Reza Aslan because you're in Europe lecturing on this topic of Islamophobia. Where does this stop Islamization movement come from?
> When we come back, the tragedy of 9/11 and what is the way forward.
> I want to ask you, Peter, you have suffered a terrible tragedy. Why is it that you think that something good could not happen to rectify or to go somewhere to assuaging the terrible tragedy that happened on 9/11 if people like Daisy are willing to, as she says, be a combatant for moderation?
[Gadiel: Because, as I pointed out, moderate mosques elsewhere in the world have been taken over by the radicals.]
Based on what? Is that true? Is that true here, Brad?
[Garrett: I think numbers wise doesn't support that...]
> So, Donna, do you think that something good to assuage the terrible tragedy you've suffered can come out of what Daisy is doing?
> [To Khan] Do you think there's any way that these two sides can move on and this debate can die down?
> When you listen to all of this, do you think that you should move the center?
[Khan: No. I think that American values have to prevail. I'm now fighting for American values.]
On that note, I thank you both, all of you very much indeed for being here. This is obviously a really still heated issue, and we're never going to come to full agreement. We hope we've aired some of the issues that all sides have been able to air, and I hope you'll agree with that.
- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.